Almost a year since I went on a multi-day bike ride. Had been itching to go on one for quite some time.
So as the monsoon tapers down in this part of the country, what place better than the Western Ghats to enjoy the greenery. A quick look at maps told me that Valparai was one area I hadn’t visited. So an impromptu plan was made for a three day trip.
Route Map (Day 1: Light Blue; Day 2: Dark Blue; Day 3: Purple)
Day 1: Bangalore to Valparai – 450Km
It was almost 0500 by the time I rode up the basement ramp and turned down the road. Being in no mood to take the monotonic national highway towards Salem, I turned towards my favorite route to Dhimbam Ghats. Kanakpura road out of Bangalore was a mess due to metro constructions and I repented not taking the Nice Road. Once past the AOL ashram, I settled down in the rhythm of a long ride. Bike munching on mile and me on varied thought. Haven’t had much time to think over the past month or so due to crazy work pressures.
At Kanakpura, Vasu’s Hotel
was just opening. Despite the temptation I moved on as I had a long way to go.
Photo shoot stop off Kanakpura road
After Kanakpura, stopped for a few pictures on a byroad.
Also tied my backpack to the rear seat. I was traveling extremely light. Apart from what I was wearing, which included a camera slung on my shoulders, I only had rain gear and a pair of shorts plus a t-shirt in the bag.
Beyond Malavalli, turned left towards Shivasamudaram. I love this road. In late spring and summer this road is dotted with flowering Gulmohar trees.
Old temple near Malavalli
After crossing the Cauvery bridge, I stopped for a break.The plan was to stop for tea. Ended up having a couple of thatte idlis also. In addition I bought a large packet of Gur Chikki. This ended up being a good choice as that was the only two things I ate till I reached Valparai.
Kollegal came and went. So did Chamarajanagar. Then the forests started and the first wildlife sighting. An elephant and calf crossed the road a little ahead of me. By the time I stopped and took the camera out, both had marched into the jungle. Managed to get a fleeing picture of one of the two.
Elephant disappearing into the jungle
The road after Chamarajanagar is beautiful and a pleasure to drive on. Even though it was the start of a long weekend, traffic was sparse. Soon I was at the top of the ghats and then descending the numerous hairpin bends towards the famous Bannari Temple.
Jungles of Punajur
Looking down from top of Dhimbam Ghats
Mobile Ice-cream shop outside Bannari Temple
From Satyamangalam to Annur to Pollachi the route was somewhat boring. Only thing of interest was appearance of windmills a little before Pollachi.
Windmills on the way
After Pollachi the fun started with the Aliyar dam and forests. From there all the way till Valparai, the roads are narrow but amazing with an ample dose of hairpin bends. Forests flank the road at lower altitudes. As the altitude increases, tea gardens appear to add to the beauty.
Tusker on the banks of the Aliyar Reservoir
Aliyar Reservoir from far above. Notice the low water levels.
Nilgiri Tahr with best buddy
The jungle spread below
Tea gardens with a waterfall in the backdrop. This tea estate was called “Waterfalls Tea Estate”
Tea Gardens in the shadow of the mountains
Tea gardens surrounding a processing center
It was early evening when I reached Valparai. After searching around for a place to bunk, found a hotel on the main road. There I relaxed for a while and ordered tea and bhaji in the room. As evening gave way to night, I stepped outside to check out the town.
Small shops flank the main road and numerous by-lanes. In this off season, the ambiance much like my hometown of Nainital. It was fun walking around enjoying the hustle-bustle of the small town. I was looking for a small eatery which would serve basic local food, but found none. A couple to which I was pointed towards were closed.
As a slight drizzle started, I turned back to the hotel. Returning back, I found a restaurant, somewhat fancy by local standards, opposite my hotel. Found a seat inside on a corner table. A corner table is generally good for observing the proceeding, especially if you are dining alone. I let the boy recommend dishes – mostly a selection of chicken and fish, and to give him credit they were quite good.
Returning back to the room, I realized it was only 2000. Interestingly this was the first time after leaving in the morning that I was looking at the time.
Fiddled around with the phone to check out the route options. As I contemplated the choice of going down into Kerala and taking a circuitous route back to Bangalore or hanging around Valaparai for another day, sleep overcame me. Some point in the middle of the night I woke up to switch off the light and went back to sleep.